After what was an uneventful few days to open up the college basketball season last week, fans will finally be treated to some legitimate contests this week. With Duke facing off against Michigan State while the Kansas Jayhawks take on the Kentucky Wildcats, college basketball fans will be delighted to witness one of the best opening weeks in recent memory. While there will be plenty of cupcake contests to avoid this week, there are at least a handful of non-conference affairs that should entice college basketball aficionados to seek out these very important matchups. Of course, there will be plenty of upsets to behold as well, which is what fans of this glorious sport have come to expect every year.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (15) vs. Providence Friars
After a fairly impressive win over South Carolina Upstate, the Golden Gophers will now have to justify their favorable ranking as they go on the road to face the highly-efficient rebounders in the Friars. With 43 total rebounds against Houston Baptist, Providence has a well-balanced roster that can attack the glass and also have one of the best point guards in the country in senior Kyron Cartwright (10 assists against Houston Baptist). While the Golden Gophers have been inconsistent when it comes to shooting the three-pointer (32.1% against the Spartans), they have looked dominant when attacking the defensive glass (34 defensive rebounds) and are actually better than Providence at moving the ball (20 assists). While I like the depth and versatility of the Friars, the Golden Gophers have better rebounding talent and a much more proficient all-around scorer in junior forward Jordan Murphy.
Final Score: Golden Gophers 79 Friars 75 Spread: Providence -2.0
Duke Blue Devils (1) vs. Michigan State Spartans (2)
The most highly anticipated contest to start the season has the young but highly talented Blue Devils facing off against Miles Bridges and the physical Michigan State Spartans. What Michigan State lacks in perimeter shooting, they more than makeup for with efficient rebounding as freshmen forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (13 rebounds against North Florida) and sophomore forward Miles Bridges (10 rebounds against North Florida) lead the way on offense and defense. However, Duke is more than capable of playing the glass themselves as freshmen forwards Marvin Bagley III (10 rebounds against Utah Valley State) and Wendell Carter Jr. (seven rebounds against Utah Valley State) have the size and skill to compete on both offense and defense. On top of that, Duke has two prolific shooters in senior guard Grayson Allen and freshman guard Trevon Duval, which should give the Blue Devils the edge they need to dispatch the Spartans.
Final Score: Duke 89 Spartans 86 Spread: -1.0
Purdue Boilermakers (20) vs. Marquette Golden Eagles
While the relentless offense of the Boilermakers probably will not be as dominant as they were in their first two games (scored 100+ points in both games), their prolific defense (41 defensive rebounds, six steals and nine blocks against Chicago State) is most definitely the real deal. Although the Marquette Golden Eagles will most likely end up being the better shooting team as the season progresses, their poor perimeter shooting (28.6% against Mt. St. Mary’s) has to be better if they want to overcome an unforgiving Boilermaker defense. Despite Marquette being opportunistic on defense (10 steals against Mt. St. Mary’s), the Boilermakers are much more formidable and will most likely dominate the Golden Eagles when it comes to rebounding.
Final Score: Boilermakers 76 Golden Eagles 65 Spread: Purdue -5.0
Kentucky Wildcats (5) vs. Kansas Jayhawks (4)
Despite looking unimpressive in both of their victories this season, the Wildcats have a plethora of young talent headlined by freshman forward PJ Washington (11 PPG, 6.5 RPG) and freshman guard Hamidou Diallo (17 PPG). Yet, as well-coached and athletic as the Wildcats are, the Jayhawks have been far more impressive at getting the most out of their roster. Junior guard Legerald Vick (23 PPG, 5 APG) is an immensely talented point man and shooter while freshman guard Marcus Garrett (10 PPG, 10 RPG) is a tremendous two-way player that can contribute in a multitude of ways. While the Wildcats will end up being one of the best teams in the country towards the end of the season, they are still a bit raw while the Jayhawks already have the established continuity to be great right now.
Final Score: Wildcats 81 Jayhawks 93 Spread: Kansas -5.0
Indiana Hoosiers vs. Seton Hall Pirates (23)
With a very young team, head coach Archie Miller and the Hoosiers are slowly but surely finding their groove. Against Howard, the Hoosiers were able to attack the defensive glass effectively (32 defensive rebounds), while taking high-percentage shots (54.1% from the field). Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they are about to face off with an equally strong defensive opponent in Seton Hall. Against Monmouth, the Pirates were able to pull down 40 total rebounds while utilizing their athleticism to snag nine steals. As both teams are horrific when it comes to shooting free throws, this should be a low scoring affair that the Pirates defense should be able to win in the end.
Final Score: Hoosiers 64 Pirates 68 Spread: Seton Hall -13.0
Creighton Blue Jays vs. Northwestern Wildcats (19)
While the Creighton Blue are not currently receiving a ton of love from pundits, they could easily garner the recognition they deserve with a win over the Wildcats. Efficient from both the field (55.9% against Alcorn State), three-point range (48.5%) and the free throw line (84.4%), the Blue Jays are well-disciplined when taking high-percentage shots and are equally as steady when it comes to playing the defensive glass (36 defensive rebounds against Alcorn State). While the Wildcats are effective in their own right when it comes to rebounding (41 total rebounds against Loyola), they struggle mightily when it comes to shooting the basketball (41% from the field, 23.8% three-point percentage against Loyola). Given how well-rounded and efficient the Blue Jays have looked already, I see them easily pulling off the upset against an overrated Wildcats program.
Final Score: Blue Jays 82 Wildcats 68 Spread: Northwestern -4.0
Xavier Musketeers (17) vs. Wisconsin Badgers
When gauging a matchup, the first thing to look for his overall efficiency on both defense and offense. Impressively, the Musketeers have been about as efficient as you can expect any program to be when it comes to shooting the ball as they shot 67.9% from the field and 57.1% from three-point range against Morehead State. While the Badgers are a solid defensive rebounding team (27 defensive rebounds against Yale), they don’t bring as much to the table offensively (only seven offensive rebounds and shot 31.8% from three-point range against Yale). Seeing as how the Musketeers are currently the much more efficient team on both offense and defense, it’s difficult to see the Badgers pulling out an incredible upset in this contest.
Final Score: Musketeers 85 Badgers 69 Spread: Wisconsin -3.5
Virginia Cavaliers vs. VCU Rams
Unsurprisingly, the Cavaliers won their first game of the season against UNC Greensboro by playing very little offense (scored just 60 total points) and focused instead on dominating the defensive glass (23 defensive rebounds). Conversely, VCU loves to shoot the basketball, whether it’s from mid-range or long distance (44.1% from three-point range against Grambling). The Rams also did a terrific job at rebounding the ball against Grambling (49 total rebounds), something that has to concern the Cavaliers. While you have to believe that the Cavaliers will be one of the best defensive teams in the country going forward, without a competent offense I just don’t see them overcoming a much more offensively tenacious Rams program.
Final Score: Cavaliers 58 Rams 74 Spread: Virginia -7.0
Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Boston College Eagles
As long as Texas Tech can continue to rebound consistently (40 rebounds against South Alabama) and be smart when it comes to shooting from the field (48.2% against South Alabama), they have a decent chance to make a splash in the BIG 12. However, they will first have to overcome a Boston College program that is also fantastic at rebounding (50 rebounds against South Carolina State) and are unselfish when it comes to moving the ball around to the most open player (18 total assists against South Carolina State). What will give the Eagles the edge in this particular matchup is their three-point shooting (44.4% against South Carolina State), something that the Red Raiders struggled mightily to utilize in a win over South Alabama (25%).
Final Score: Red Raiders 73 Eagles 80 Spread: Texas Tech -9.0
USC Trojans (10) vs. Vanderbilts Commodores
While they may not be the best shooting program in college basketball, the Trojans are well-balanced enough (41.2% from the field, 41.7% from three-point range against Cal State Fullerton) in this regard to allow their aggressive defense (39 defensive rebounds, six steals and nine blocks against Cal State Fullerton) to carry the workload. Although Vanderbilt has a nice defense of their own (23 defensive rebounds against Austin Peay), they will need to tap into their passing capabilities (17 assists against Austin Peay) if they hope to score against the Trojans. Given how balanced the Trojans are when it comes to scoring combined with a tenacious rebounding defense, it’s difficult to imagine how the Commodores can pull off the upset in this contest.
Final Score: Tojans 80 Commodores 70 Spread: USC -3.5